Washington, DC

Photo by PoPville flickr user Pablo Raw

“Dear PoPville,

Within the last week, one of the support posts for my neighbor’s wood fence has failed, and the fence is now leaning in at that point, and, to my eye, preparing to do so in other points. Fortunately, it’s leaning into their yard, and typical wind directions mean that, if it falls completely, it will go “their” way, rather than mine. For information, they own and occupy the home.

The neighbors are not great about taking care of their outdoor space, but I had hope that something this serious would get their attention.

Today (Saturday), I was out working in the yard when one of them came out and said “hello over there!” I responded with a “hi {neighbor},” assuming they saw me outside and were going to ask to come in and look at the situation from my side and chat about having the fence repaired (they’ll certainly need access to my yard, which is also fenced, and I’m happy to allow)…instead, the follow up was “what a cute dog” and getting in the car to leave. Yeah…hi to my dog and no acknowledgement that there’s a problem, or even that I said hi back.

So, obviously, I’m going to knock on their door, inform (? how did they not notice?) them of the problem, and tell them to just let me know when they’re going to get it repaired and I’ll leave my gate open so their workers can do it. But I don’t have high hopes for it actually being addressed. I’m not worried about it causing damage to me or my property since, again, a stiff wind has a significantly larger chance of blowing it on to their property than mine.

But my question is can anyone force them to fix/maintain the fence? Fences seem like optional structures, but once one is there, is there any responsibility to maintain it to a decent standard? I’m not asking that they keep it beautiful, just…upright.

the update is that I tried to knock on their door and they refused to answer it. They were home (their car was parked out front, the lights were on inside, and I could hear them from inside my house) and just ignored the knock at the door. DCRA has lots of resources about what a legal fence looks like, but nothing about what maintenance requirements might be…”


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